If the Railway Budget is any indication — and experts say it is — the aam aadmi is likely to get some short-term relief on the big issue of this year: Spiralling prices and inflation.
But, while Mumbai at least got 101 more train services, the promise of crores in funding and an upgrade for major stations in the rail budget, there is not much hope in the country’s commercial capital ahead of the Union Budget to be presented today.
For two years in a row, the city has been disappointed.
Last year, the only Mumbai-specific announcement in the Budget was an allocation of Rs 500 crore for the revamp of the city’s 100-year-old, British-era stormwater drains — the crumbling system that has been the main cause of the city’s annual monsoon flooding.
The year before, the 2008-09 Budget had no city-specific budgetary announcement at all — despite the fact the Mumbai contributes more to the Centre in taxes than any other city in the country (since it houses most corporate headquarters).
“There is no reason why Mumbai should not get specific provisions for some of its projects in the budget, given its special status as a financial hub battling severe infrastructure deficit,” said former chief secretary V. Ranganathan. “But other than a general hike in the allocation for the national urban renewal mission, the most the city can hope for is more funding for coastal security and terror preparedness.”
Meanwhile, the city — and state — continue to battle an escalating water and power crisis. And Mumbai continues to face a cash crunch that is crippling efforts to improve its creaking infrastructure.
The one solid hope this year is another overall increase in the allocation for flagship schemes like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), which seeks to upgrade cities and large towns across the country.
More funds for the scheme would mean more funds for the 77 projects undertaken under this scheme across Maharashtra.
Some of these are vital — like the Middle Vaitarna water supply project, which will add 445 million litres per day to parched city’s water supply.
“The water crisis will only get graver, so assistance to water infrastructure projects or any announcement to mitigate the crisis would be more than welcome,” said Ranganathan.
Added Principal Secretary (Urban Development Department) T.C. Benjamin: “We are not expecting any specific provisions for Mumbai’s projects, especially since the Centre has already cleared viability gap funding for projects like the Mumbai Metro.”